Why are there no old movies on TV anymore?

Last updated 10:26 13/06/2012

Why are there no old movies on TV anymore?

Television first sparked the fire for movies in me. When I was young there were always old movies on television. If you were around in the day, you could always find a black and white classic. They were not the best known movies, but you could stumble upon the more obscure films by actors like John Wayne or Lucille Ball. I remember discovering classics like Topper and Gold Diggers of 1933 or oddities like the 5,000 Fingers of Dr T. In the 1980s, afternoon television was a treasure trove of monochrome delights. If you turn on the television in the afternoon now all you find is Dr Phil and Katy Perry selling miracle make up. It ain't the same.

There also used to be seasons of classic movies. In 1980s Britain, where I grew up, there would be an Alfred Hitchcock season every Christmas. I remember getting my ten-year-old mind blown by Rear Window, The Birds and North by Northwest. I wasn't so keen on Marnie though. The wonders of our Betamax video meant I could rewatch these films endlessly over and over. My mother tells me that as a child I would take apart my pram to see how it worked. As a teenager, I took apart old movies to see how they worked.

A television season also kickstarted my lifelong love of Woody Allen. The season included Manhattan, Annie Hall, Love and Death and Sleeper. I was at an impressionable age and my eyes were wide open.

Then there was Moviedrome. Every week, cult film director Alex Cox (Repo Man, Sid & Nancy) would introduce a slightly leftfield classic. Moviedrome really baked my noodle. You can see a list of films included in Moviedrome here. It was where I first discovered The Wicker Man, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (both versions), The Man Who Fell to Earth, Don't Look Now, Brazil, Terminator, Cape Fear, Les Diaboliques, Escape from New York, Darkman, Logan's Run, Targets and Carrie.

Quite a list. Pretty much every one of those films has stayed with me and many sparked an interest in particular directors like John Carpenter, Nicholas Roeg or Sam Raimi. And don't even get me started on The Wicker Man.

Where would you find something like Moviedrome now? The nearest thing I can think of is the Sunday night movie on Four, but this leans perilously close to camp rather than cult. It's Flashdance rather than Big Wednesday.

This stuff is important. How are people supposed to discover these films without careful curation? I can't imagine seeking out cult movie like Two-Lane Blacktop as a child without the aid of something like Moviedrome.

Wouldn't it be great if someone like Vincent Ward or Roger Donaldson curated a season of cool movies every Sunday night?

Am I dreaming? Are old movies just not ratings grabbers?

Anybody out there know why they have been excised from our screens? Is it the rise of the multi-channel Sky world? Does the availability of movies on DVD make TV a less important place to discover classics?

I was talking to a friend about this the other day. He said that television is directed entirely at young people now, so old movies have been scrapped.

"But we watched old movies when we were kids,'' I said.

"Yeah, but we're not normal,'' he replied.

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Lou   #1   10:31 am Jun 13 2012

Try Cue in Invercargill.

Nathan   #2   10:36 am Jun 13 2012

Charlie- a few years back I think TV One had a Film Noir season on Friday nights and it was introduced by the marvellous Chris Knox.I guess the TV stations can make more money with hideous infomercials and really dire american sitcoms to fill up the afternoons on the weekends.I find a good way to find old clasics is to go trawling the bins at The Warehouse. I have picked up goodies like Capra's Lost Horizon,Cat on a Hot Tin Roof(Liz Taylor looking hot!)and other old movies for $5 each.

Matt   #3   10:41 am Jun 13 2012

Yeah but Cue is all blurry, public domain, warehouse bin crap

wexfordmike   #4   10:50 am Jun 13 2012

Agree 100%. As a kid in the states there used to be a morning movie and an afternoon one everyday. Great old classics. I'm sure retired people would appreciate having them on, rather than reruns of crap like Riki Lame or whatever

paul   #5   10:53 am Jun 13 2012

I remember watching late nite movies and being introduced to great movies such as Duel and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It's a shame they don't broadcast these sort of things no more. It does give an independant tho the chance to run what must surely be "past the copyright" movies. There are lots of these on youtube - such as "Time of the Gypsies".

Alan   #6   10:54 am Jun 13 2012

Try TCM on Sky and MGM channel - HEAPS of nostalgic stuff right back to the 30s. Some fairly atrocious but much of it fantastic.

Lou   #7   10:55 am Jun 13 2012

Chris Knox used to host a classic film slot (called 'The Vault' or something) on One on Friday nights back in the early 2000s. He played some fantastic B-noir (like The Window, Born to Kill, Crossfire and Angel Face) but once that fount of movies dried out the thing descended into tedious Bob Hope/Bing Crosby "comedies" and then wound up. But that was the last time I've seen a dedicated slot for old films on free TV.

TCM on Sky used to provide a good selection, but now seem to have the same mainstream westerns/musicals/Esther Williams aquatics on rotation every month - very unimaginative. I'd like to see more obscure B movies and silent films on TCM; they get played in the US but not here, for some reason.

Martin Buck   #8   10:58 am Jun 13 2012

I troll for all movies on my T-Box, watching them at leisure, and skipping through the ads. There are very few old movies. TV2 has some entertaining slasher movies latest night, which mainly have novel means of dispatching various characters as their chief drawcard. Wanna see a head exploding in a microwave oven? Right here, folks!

Most of the movies seem to be Marvel comics set to screen, barely different from the two dimensions on paper. CGI is the main feature, dialogue risible, acting indifferent.

I can't afford to buy BluRays of all my favourite old movies. I think TV programmers want us all to go to Sky, or go outside. I mostly watch US cable made shows, they have superior story telling. Movies are over.

paul   #9   10:59 am Jun 13 2012

Actually, had a quick looksie, seems the US added another 20years for copyright in a 1998 Extension to the Copyright Act. I'm guessing this has probably had something to do with it.

Mo   #10   11:05 am Jun 13 2012

Cant beat a good old movie. Just bought the Alfred Hitchcock collection, its brilliant. Just want to say, your far better than that TV blogger, Chris Philpott. Cant stand him


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